Maria Pesin is a senior apparel industry executive and founder of Vibe, providing new and established businesses with a leg up in bringing fashion trends to market and growing their presence in the apparel industry. We asked Maria about the pitfalls of starting a business in this competitive industry. Here's what she shared.
The worldwide Fashion industry is worth an estimated US$3 trillion―about 2% of world GDP―and employs about 60 million people in the combined apparel manufacturing and textile industries. Fuse those healthy numbers with its focus on individual expression, glamour and creativity, and it's easy to understand the industry's pervasive allure.
Back in the brick-and-mortar days, all any wide-eyed fashion designer needed to launch a new label was a few strips of fabric and a showroom lease. But seismic shifts in the technological and marketing landscape mean that fashion businesses―or businesses of any type―must now embrace forward-thinking strategies to avoid failure.
Small business statistics can be grim:
Now for the good news: It's never been easier for a designer with a dream to build his or her brand into a global success. Here are five things you need to know in order to do so.
1. Social Media and Fashion Intertwine
No upstart fashion business will succeed without a clear Social Media strategy. High-street powerhouse Burberry turned heads and reaped massive rewards in 2016 when they were reportedly the most successful brand across digital channels. The secret: 60% of their marketing budget is spent on social media advertising, focusing heavily on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. The result is that Burberry is now a top-three-most-followed luxury brand on FB and Twitter, and top 10 on Instagram.
2. Technology Bolsters Brands
But success isn't limited to social media. New technological advances have revolutionized how people shop for clothes. Curated shopping―segmenting customers into niche demos with targeted product options that personalize the shopping experience―is garnering massive success. Modern shoppers embrace its guided selling strategies including personal shoppers, flash sales and product tutorials.
3. Modern Technology Brings the Customer to You
Utilizing modern technology, your fashion and/or beauty brand can create storylines showcasing the virtual showrooms of tastemakers worldwide. Your website visitors get to go behind the scenes with designers and celebrities, highlighting relevant, trendy products that are only a click away. Brands often round out this strategy by offering interactive marketing tools, expert style advice and personalized recommendations. This savvy business tactic appeals to Millennials, that highly engaged demographic with billions in buying power who like doing things their way. Ignore them at your own peril!
4. Many Bright, Dedicated Entrepreneurs Have Tried―and Failed
Rookie entrepreneurs, including those who create new fashion labels, fail for a wide variety of reasons: expectations of overnight success, neglecting due diligence, mismanaging supply chains, cash flow issues, inferior design capability, lack of textile and fabric research, poorly managed distribution channels―the list goes on. Avoiding these pitfalls entails careful preparation and forethought.
Also of critical importance: Entrepreneurs must convey brand messaging concisely. Don't ramble or deal in abstract notions. A sales pitch must be short and directly to the point. Twitter is a great platform to fine-tune and disseminate a concise message―even with its recently expanded 280-character limit.
And don't be scared to get creative. Boundaries are made to be pushed, especially in this arena. Fast-fashion giant H&M scored a runaway hit with their "Close the Loop" ad campaign featuring fashion rule-breakers, various cultures and plus-sized models to promote their sustainable fashion line.
5. Hone Soft Skills
A soft skill is any non-specialized trait or ability that you can wield with great success. We all have them, whether hidden or overt; some might need a little coaxing. In the fashion industry, top skills to hone include, but are not limited to:
- Creativity--burnish your creative side to build a unique brand
- Illustration--utilize drawing skills to showcase talent
- Attention to detail--the old proverb "God is in the details" couldn't be more true, especially in the fashion world
- Textures, colors and fabrics--how you guide their interplay will help determine your success or failure
- Visualization--like creativity, the ability to visualize goals will help you achieve them
- Communication--interpersonal skills will enable you to find and keep the best staff
- Business--a fundamental understanding of sales, profit margins, finance and marketing will keep your fashion upstart afloat and growing
As you set out to make your dream a reality, I implore you to maintain your resolve―no matter how well you prepare, how sublime your social media, or how honed your soft skills, you will encounter confounding challenges. How you respond at those critical junctures will make all the difference.